Month: September 2013

The Cafe at the métro stop

Paris – le cafe, metro St. Mich image from easyart.fr It is an institution of social life for many people in Paris – the corner café, right at the entrance of the metro station. For this blogger, there are a few unique things that make the corner cafe an enriching component of Parisian sociality: 1. Accessibility and the functionality of the corner metro cafe. They are positioned to ensure that you never have to fake text while waiting for friends who are running late. In London, I have a friend who admits to holding fake mobile phone conversations in his native Chinese as a means of escape from the loneliness induced by the bare, exposed entrances of London tube stations. Now, while the conversations with himself are interesting and maybe warrant some soul searching – the contrast between his experience and the socially engaging space around metro stops in Paris shed some light onto an interesting component of Parisian urban planning: The distribution of spaces of socialisation in Paris around metro stops are an interesting …

Bois de Vincennes: Sanctuary, Invigoration, Enchantment

At this time of year, just before autumn, a walk through the Bois de Vincennes is a revelatory experience. There are a few dimensions of a walk in the woods to be appreciated by an otherwise computer bound student: 1. I am grateful that Vincennes is a dramatic break from the urbanised surrounding region. It provides a new set of experiences not to be had anywhere else in the Parisian region 2. An unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle is replaced by an imperative to be active, to move, to walk, run, stretch. The space imposes a break from the scholar’s constant need to be still, to sit – or rather the instinct to slouch over a computer. 3. The sense of enchantment. There is something about forest and woods that triggers childhood associations of forest with enchantment, a sense of ‘magic’, one could say. I appreciate that this piece of wooded land evokes moments of bedazzlement at towering trees and stunning beauty. 4. The soundscape is also quite unique. Familiar urban sounds are replaced by audible footsteps …

Three happiness boosting places to eat/drink in Paris (emotive geographies 13)

This past week has come with interesting places to eat, drink, and be merry. Food and drink are probably two of the most reliable means of shifting emotions and our perceptions about the places in which we live and work, almost instantly. Alcohol in moderation, preferably consumed in wine form, seems to have a particularly immediate and efficacious effect upon one’s affective state 🙂 Three of the great places to enhance one’s experience of Paris through food and drink that this blogger has come across are: 1. Le Baron Rouge at 1 Rue Théophile Roussel in the 12th arrondissement which offers wine at reasonable prices. There is an option to also contribute to the salvation of the planet by bringing in your own bottle for wine on tap at prices as low as €3,50. With great company, this place makes for a great early evening out and a means of bringing instant balance to graduate student computer ridden existence. 2. A well loved place to grab vietnamese food – the restaurant Paris-Hanoi, 74 Rue du …

Stillness and depth: River Thames (emotive geographies 12)

The old adage asserts that still waters run deep. The river Thames communicates this point poignantly. It always reminds this blogger to “keep calm and….” study, persist, explore, live fully, experience life, and so forth. If the Seine inspires movement, the Thames brings a sense of emotional balance. Calm. Poise. Stillness. An unruffled state of being and of navigating the world. The words of John Denham ring true with each encounter with the Thames: Oh, could I flow like thee, and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme! Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull; Strong without rage, without o’erflowing full. The Thames reminds me to be still – not as a sign of docility, but as a mark of restrained strength. I am grateful for the river and the emotional dispositions that I associate with it…while it probably runs through London for more practical historical reasons, perhaps for security and commerce, it has taken on several emotive associations through the centuries for different people who have encounter it. …

Attached to the river features: affective ties to the Seine and Marne ( emotive geographies 11)

The topography of Paris is fundamentally shaped by the Seine and Marne rivers. One could simply relate to them as physical aspects of the geography of the city… Yet, the rivers are also associated to the varying meanings that we attach to them and the associated feelings that come with those meanings. While jogging this morning, I gained a new appreciation for how the rivers are part of a personal affective landscape of the city. I associate it with romance, thanks to several walks along the Seine with my beloved. Yet, I also associate the Marne and Seine with energizing, revitalizing runs, exercise – and feelings of accomplishment, motivation, forward movement. It is difficult to simply look at these rivers on a map and only see a topographical aspect of Paris. Instead, I project several positive affective dispositions onto these rivers: they are places of romantic affect, of revitalization, accomplishment, movement. The river becomes intimately tied to the very emotions I need to remain human when most of grad student life is sedentary and immobile. …

Green Park, London: Playfulness and Open Urban Space (emotive geography 10)

The temptation to become staid, dour, unimaginative… is an ever present one when pursuing graduate studies. There is a constant urge to to prove one’s ‘seriousness’ as a scholar by being tedious and tiresome – at least for this blogger. Enter Green Park, at the beginning of the new academic year. The sun is still friendly enough to make it a space to prolong summer, and find temporary escape. There is also something about Green Park, at this time of the year, that elicits playfulness, a temporary abandonment of care. Carefreeness. Green Park is a 242nd reason for this blogger to be grateful for London as a setting for grad study – because it is an accessible open space that evokes a sense of playfulness. There are fewer things more energizing than possessing a sense of play. It brings much needed balance to graduate student life. And, thankfully, the urban planning of London provides for open places within which to channel one’s ‘inner child’ and trade work for playfulness, if only for a short while.

Russell Square, London: Green Space, Reset of Emotion (emotive geographies 9)

Russell Square in Bloomsbury/Camden evokes (for me) a sense of grounding. A feeling of being brought back to earth – in an almost literal sense, given the ‘natural’ setting – and on the level of emotion. The surrounding city – London – is one big ‘interstitial affective zone’. It inspires as much energy as it compels complacency. It is a battlefield where blandness and grandeur constantly clash. It is my ultimate ‘in-between’ city. I love it almost as much as I hate it. Yet, there is a space like Russell Square, during the late summer, that has the capacity to transcend the tensions that London evokes. It offers not only green space but contact with other living organisms that do not have an opinion but merely present themselves as placid, living presences in the midst of the surrounding madness and sanity of London. The silent and elegant greenery, confident trees, and birds consumed in constant conservation among themselves. I appreciate Russell Square as a space that evokes a feeling that I find difficult to express …